By: Sommer Palmer
Edited by: Nicole Anderson
Why can’t we seem to agree on the main problems regarding climate change and global warming? If we knew the overarching issues and discussed them scientifically and without bias, climate change wouldn’t be that hard to solve, or at the very least manage. Yet thousands of researchers, organizations, and funding agencies cannot seem to do that.
Most people will tell you the main problem is our inherent “love” of burning fossil fuels and the resulting CO2 emissions, and they aren’t wrong. However, they aren’t entirely right either. Climate change is relatively considered the most significant threat to our current Earth, global citizens, and wildlife as a whole. It is a lot more complex than burning gas in your car.
To understand the approach this post is taking on the issues surrounding climate change, we first need to understand what it is. NASA’s website describes climate change as the:
“long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates. These changes have a broad range of observed effects that are synonymous with the term”3.
NASA also defines global warming as a direct result of burning fossil fuels for human activities.
“the long-term heating of Earth’s climate system [since] the pre-industrial period” and “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”3.
Unequivocal, meaning to leave to doubt, yet there is doubt, lots of it. For example, if you google “climate change isn’t real” you will get approximately 273 MILLION results. Some defend climate change, yes, but it isn’t hard to find doubt. The first article I found is titled ‘31,000 scientists say, “no convincing evidence”’1. Now don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe in global warming and climate change, but I am here to tell you why I believe our perceptions of the issues surrounding and causing climate change are misguided and how that harms our progress.
So by this point, you’re probably wondering what obstacles are standing in the way. All the concerns fall into these categories: socio-economic, agriculture, consumption, law and governance. As well as the dogmatic views from both sides of the argument. I would love to cover each topic in-depth, and maybe one day I will. For now, let’s scratch the surface of understanding for each.
Socio-economic issues that plague our development of sufficient climate change management directly relate to our views of conservation within developing nations. While a country or region is developing, they typically do not have the excess of resources that allow for conservation6. In a self-told story from Apocalypse Never, Michael Shellenberger describes visiting a Congolese woman6. She is relatively wealthy compared to others in her village. Still, she struggles to provide food for her family, primarily due to monkeys coming from a nearby reserve destroying her crops6. You cannot expect people who struggle to produce food and fuel for their houses to care for wildlife or climate change.
It is absurd that developed nations expect or force these areas to conserve their lands when their basic needs are not being met. They need to establish sufficient energy systems, productive agriculture, and develop fuel for their people to survive. So how is this Congolese woman (and many others) supposed to care and promote conservation when conservation destroys their livelihood6.
Agriculture is a cumbersome issue regarding the complexity of climate change. 7 billion mouths to feed and counting is a large and daunting thought. Asking everyone to become vegetarian would be futile and likely not aid in the fundamental problems with agriculture (land use, wasted food, globally transported food etc.). As of 2020, ¼ of Earth’s land space was used for livestock to produce meat6. Once you account for the food to feed these animals and all other grown food we eat, the land use for food production begins to climb to 38% of the global land surface2. Land conversion from natural ecosystems to cropland has also been the largest historical cause of greenhouse gas emissions2.
Another concern is the lack of developed high-yield food production systems in third-world countries. If developed nations worked to aid poorer countries in developing sustainable farming practices with GMOs, good fertilizers etc. They would be able to produce and export food while serving their communities on much less land6.
The main issues with consumption (and associated over-consumption) come from the developed world5,6. We waste food, water, and other resources, almost everything the underdeveloped world lacks. And although over-consumption is an issue, the more considerable obstacle hiding amongst this is the consumerist mentality we share and promote5. Influencers and celebrities are particularly guilty of convincing the public to purchase products they don’t even need. However, the public still purchases these items because of the hype. This leads to the issue of marketing strategies for over-consumption, with products designed explicitly for over-consumption or to be wasteful5,6. Although you can argue that marketing tends to respond to consumers’ desires, they rarely promote simpler ways of life5. The final issue with consumption and marketing comes from the term “green-marketing” where consumers will feel better about consuming products labeled “green” or marketed as environmentally friendly. This marketing strategy still promotes consumption, albeit slightly better for the planet. But don’t even get me started on companies’ false advertising “green” products through their company name. But the product is not in any form better for the environment.
Law and Governance
This section may not be what you are expecting for issues surrounding the law and governance of climate change. I believe there are too many organizations and politics involved in creating perfunctory climate change plans. As a global matter, there are over 200 countries with governments all trying to create separate yet cohesive climate change plans that are not working or coming up short6. Values such as money, politics, religious beliefs and many others are commonly regarded as more important than using more resources to fight climate change. We need to change that.
The IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) is a good organization to bring everyone together and monitor the science related to climate change4. However, they do not have enough influence on federal governments to make any substantial changes to climate change plans. Nor do they have any real authority to enforce climate action.
Dogmatic Views and Activists
“Our way is the right way!” said every protestor ever. As much as we all love passionate individuals fighting for a cause, these views on climate change are often as wrong as the argument of the opposing side. Protestors and activists and anyone with an opinionated view (vs fact-based) on these topics do a lot more harm than good.
A good example of this is the constant battle for nuclear power. When nuclear bombs were invented in WWII, there was an obvious hesitancy among the population over using these bombs nationally and globally6. From the discovery of nuclear bombs came the use of nuclear energy. Within a decade protestors opposing nuclear bombs quickly started attacking nuclear energy6. After each disaster (Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island) support for their cause grew6. For the most part, they were successful with their efforts, resulting in many proposed, planned, and half-built nuclear reactors across North America being shut down6. The closures of these plants were deemed to be replaceable with renewable energy. Except very few were replaced this way, most of the burden from the lack of energy fell back onto coal and natural gas6. While great, the devastation of Chernobyl and Fukushima was, in the grand scheme of things, relatively minor.6Yet they are still used as “horrific” events threatening human existence6. What these protestors failed to realize then, and many today are still not understanding, is that nuclear power is the cleanest way to supply global power needs. This is not to say I am against renewable energy; the technology is just not far enough along to store the energy. With the substantial land requirements for renewables to compete with fossil fuels, the immediate solution becomes nuclear.
In the end, it’s impossible to find suitable scientific solutions and technological advances that can combat climate change while fixing these long-standing problems that are polarizing not only our countries but our whole globe. To move forward, we need adequate solutions to these issues. This may come in varying forms of directions leading to the same goal. Committees and large donors could help to provide essentials to developing nations to allow them the convenience of caring for natural areas. They could employ and train those same people to take care of their land, and even educate and provide better alternatives within the agricultural field. However, we do it, it needs to appeal to the general population, it needs to be scientific, and without bias, or pressure. People need to think they are doing something good in an easy and uplifting way that will benefit them. Conservation evolved in America from the need and desire to manage and conserve game species for hunting, I believe we need a similar approach that appeals to the majority of people. Don’t lose hope. Every year, there are still great advances towards combating climate change, look at the take-off of electric vehicles in the last decade, or the advances in renewable energy and energy storage. We are constantly moving forward, yet at this point, it feels as though climate change is moving faster and faster each day. It’s a race and we must win.
Please leave us a comment and share your thoughts!
 “31,000 Scientists Say ‘No Convincing Evidence’.” OSS Foundation, 14 July 2021, http://ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/31000-scientists-say-no-convincing-evidence.
 “Land Use in Agriculture by the Numbers.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 7 May 2020, https://www.fao.org/sustainability/news/detail/en/c/1274219/.
 “Overview: Weather, Global Warming and Climate Change.” NASA, NASA, 24 Aug. 2021, https://climate.nasa.gov/resources/global-warming-vs-climate-change/.
 “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” IPCC, https://www.ipcc.ch/.
 Pereira Heath, M. Teresa, and Andreas Chatzidakis. “‘Blame It on Marketing’: Consumers’ Views on Unsustainable Consumption.” International Journal of Consumer Studies, vol. 36, no. 6, 2011, pp. 656–667., https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1470-6431.2011.01043.x.
 Shellenberger, M. (2020). Apocalypse never: Why environmental alarmism hurts us all. Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.